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016 Winter Ticks, Winter Insect Survival, and New Northward Migrations

In this episode we look at increasing mortality of moose due to winter ticks, winter survival strategies of insects and spiders, and northward migrations due to warming climates.

Story 1 – Winter Ticks

Have you ever gone on a spring hike and returned to your car only to find that you had unwittingly picked up an eight legged hitchhiker? Maybe you didn’t notice and, a few days later found a growing eight-legged grape tucked away in your navel, or worse – and let’s leave it at that for now. How would you feel if you had some 140,000 of the little suckers with their thirsty mouths embedded into your hide slowly draining your vitality?

As much as that may sound like something out of a bad horror film, it can be just another day in the life of a moose wandering the mountain landscape.

Story 2 – Insect Cold Weather Strategies

In episode 12, we introduced the idea of winter ecology. When it comes to surviving long northern winters, there are as many strategies as there are species…and the smaller you are, the more challenging these winters can be. Over millions of years, our smallest residents, the insects have had to create very specialized ways of keeping the species going every year. While winter brings, challenges, spring brings rebirth.

Now if you’re an insect, you already have one thing working against you – you’re cold blooded – so you can’t stoke the furnace with a good meal like warm blooded mammals and birds. When it comes to insects and spiders, there are not just a few strategies, rather and entire continuum of ways that they try to game the system, all in the hopes of surviving the theoretically unsurvivable.Insects and spiders are not the only things moving north. There are hundreds of plants, animals and birds that are also altering their seasonal patterns to, in some cases survive, and in other cases, take advantage of, changing climatic norms. Climate change is a carousel filled with winners and losers. Cold dependent species like polar bears, are finding that they’re habitat is simply melting away with the winter pack ice. Other species, like grizzly bears, are exploring new and exciting habitats and in some cases, even interbreeding with grizzlies to create, depending on who you talk to, either pizzlies, or grolar bears.

Story 3 – Northward Migrations

Unfortunately, northern migrations today, are very different than the might have been at the end of the ice age some 10,000 years ago. While these early migrations had to deal with nomadic bands of human hunters, todays species need to deal with fences, roads, overpasses, underpasses, pipelines, and habitat that has become fragmented and dissected by human occupation.

Researchers looked at some 3,000 species of birds, mammals and amphibians to see how they might respond to warming climates. Like migrating birds, there are definite routes of northward migrations depending on many factors. For each animal, bird and amphibian, scientists needed to determine their optimal habitats and then project where those conditions would be most likely to occur in a warming climate.

In the article, I refer to an interactive map. You can view the map and associated story at the following link: